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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cottages - Heatherbrae Hawkesbury Road Winmalee (formerly North Springwood)

Two views of Heatherbrae

Recently an approach was made to the Springwood Historical Society for their views on the de-listing of the above property from Blue Mountains City Councils Heritage Register.  Unfortunately, the society decided not to take the matter further i.e. advocating for retention of the property on the said list given its cultural and historic significance.

The land on which Heatherbrae was built was once owned by Sir Henry Parkes who reputedly traded it off to pay a debt owed to wine and spirit merchant, Mr William Fesq. In 1889 the business premises of Fesq was located at 257 George Street, Sydney.[1]  Fesq had succeeded his father and continued with the wine and spirit business until he retired in 1911.  He died in 1919.[2] Fesq retained ownership of the property some years before he built the sandstone and weatherboard cottage that eventually became known as Heatherbrae, 1893/94.[3]  In 1907 the cottage was sold to William Wallace, a police sergeant, and it was Wallace that gave the home the name that it retains until this present day.  However, Wallace may have been leasing the property prior to that time because his name appeared on the electoral roll for 1903 and he was a member of the local Progress Association 1905-06.

George McKillop of Buddah Station Narromine purchased the property in 1908.  McKillop, who died in 1934, was related to Sister Mary McKillop and the Boland family of Springwood.  Various members of the family of graziers and horticulturalists operated Buddah until it was sold in 1974.[4]  Royden and Norman McKillop were his sons.   Heatherbrae was sold to a Mr. R. McDonald in 1915 and in 1918 to Edward Augustus Beeby who was a Sydney solicitor.  Beeby was secretary of the Starr Bowkett Society and the family ran an electrical business in Springwood.  In 1927, the cottage was sold to Aaron Webb who was born in Forbes in 1886. There is some evidence to suggest the cottage accepted guests and that the proprietor, thought to be Webb, met the trains to pick up his guests.[5]

William M. Reid purchased the property in 1930. An article that appeared in the Australian Women’s Weekly stated that Reid was a softgoods manufacturer.  The couple were still living at Heatherbrae some thirty years later when this article was published.[6]  According to the article William and wife Constance were globetrotters extraordinaire who had visited every country in the world except for ‘Formosa, Russia and the continent of South America.’[7]  William Reid had been around the world forty times while Constance had twenty eight around the world trips under her belt.  Both husband and wife were proficient in several languages including French, Italian and Spanish and could make themselves known in Portuguese, Dutch, German and Norwegian.[8]  As a consequence Heatherbrae contained a unique assortment of treasures collected on their trips including a ‘polar bear skin and stuffed crocodile,’ a ‘dagger made from a human thighbone,’ ‘a Scottish whisky horn...and a brass gong from China.’[9]  The couple had travelled in cargo ships and luxury liners and considered the most important requirement for any traveller was the need to be adaptable to any situation and to eat the local food.

A newspaper article indicated that the Reids were affable hosts and in their mountain home entertained on a somewhat grand scale.  In1932 they entertained a large gathering of members of the English Speaking Union.[10]  Guests played tennis on Heatherbrae’s courts or amused themselves ‘inspecting the curios’ their hosts had collected from a trip to Tahiti.  The English Speaking Union was an organisation founded by Sir Evelyn Wrench after the First World War.[11] The object of the Union was to promote human achievement and understanding through education throughout the world.[12]  It is of interest to note that in 1941, while on a visit to Australia, Sir Evelyn was kidnapped in Sydney by a group who passed themselves off as journalists employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.[13]  Fortunately, he came to no harm after being taken and left at a crematorium.  Sir Evelyn implied that, in retrospect, he thought they could have been members of the ‘fifth column’ who wanted to prevent him broadcasting a speech on the radio station 2FC.[14]  Wrench, interestingly, had been blacklisted by the Germans for opinions expressed about Hitler when he visited the United States, thus his kidnapping could have been attributed to any one of several political groups. A luncheon meeting of the Union in Sydney in 1940 included people of note such as Sir Henry Braddon, Sir Kelso King, Dr. Ben Edye, James Moyes and Harry Twigden.

The Reids hospitality also extended to their neighbours in North Springwood. The present owner is thought to be M/s Bronwyn Hickey and family.

Despite a reduction to the original land holding of Parkes and alterations to the original house, it is unfortunate that Blue Mountains City Council does not pay due respect to Heatherbrae and the evolving character of this heritage listed item.  The listing should be retained and represent the way that the Springwood district has progressed since the 1880s.

Pamela Smith


[1] Sydney Morning Herald, 12.7.1889, p. 4.
[2] Sydney Morning Herald, 12.5.1919, p. 8.
[3] Nepean Times,18.11.1893.
[4] Noel Butlin Archive Centre, McKillop and Sons, 1849-2005, Ref. Code AU NBAC Z376.
[5] Sydney Morning Herald, 19.10.1929, p. 28.
[6] Australian Women’s Weekly, 13.12.1961, p. 15.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Sydney Morning Herald, 1.11.1932, p. 4.
[11] The English Speaking Union, How ESU Began,,
   cached, accessed 17.9.2011.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Examiner (Launceston), 25.7.1941, p. 1.
[14] Ibid.


Cottages Holiday said...

I have never thought that there people that have the same thoughts with Cottages Heatherbrae Hawkesbury Road and share them on the web as it is awesome and makes others overlook their personal point of view.

Cheryl Anderson said...

Very interesting thank you. My grandfather was Edward Augustus Beeby and I found Heather-Brae in 2005 when I was staying in Katoomba with my son.I have a very interesting letter written by my aunt, Edward's eldest daughter, to the owners in 1985. The letter describes some quite interesting history about the home.